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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
Gosh. I really can't add anything to the other reviews except to say that I also loved this book. The characters jump from the page & the description of life in the trenches is vivid. There may be some historical inaccuracies & I admit that I also questioned the "blindfold moment" but it wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment. Now I want to lend it to EVERYONE. If you're not...
Published on 2 Sep 2012 by MISS HAVISHAM READ IT

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars just poor writing
What a disappointment. The basic story idea was good, but the writing is unsophisticated, the dialogue is 'clunky' and completely anachronistic, and the number of factual errors about the Army, clothing, everyday objects and social life is so huge that even if I hadn't been annoyed by the blindingly obvious nature of the plot hints, I still wouldn't have been able to...
Published 4 months ago by Alison H Smith


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars just poor writing, 29 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
What a disappointment. The basic story idea was good, but the writing is unsophisticated, the dialogue is 'clunky' and completely anachronistic, and the number of factual errors about the Army, clothing, everyday objects and social life is so huge that even if I hadn't been annoyed by the blindingly obvious nature of the plot hints, I still wouldn't have been able to enjoy the book. I can't see why you would set out to write historical fiction but not be prepared to check the OED to see when people started to use a particular word or phrase or Google for basic facts. You don't get a 'get out of criticism free' card just because you write about a sensitive topic, Mr Boyne, sorry.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 2 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
Gosh. I really can't add anything to the other reviews except to say that I also loved this book. The characters jump from the page & the description of life in the trenches is vivid. There may be some historical inaccuracies & I admit that I also questioned the "blindfold moment" but it wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment. Now I want to lend it to EVERYONE. If you're not on the list to borrow it from me then I strongly recommend that you treat yourself.
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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing book, 24 July 2012
This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
After reading other reviews on this book,my viewpoint is not going to go down well....

I've read three other books by John Boyne (' .... Striped Pyjamas'; ' ... Bounty'; '...Special Purpose') and really enjoyed them. The Absolutist was very disappointing. One other reviewer has already alluded to the use of the modern idiom. I too found this frustrating and point out expressions completely out of context with the time " ... We were an item."; " Keep it together". There are many others, one of them being the repeated use of the word 'foxhole' when Boyne means 'dugout'. According to Merrion Webster (Encyclopaedia Britannica) the word foxhole wasn't coined until 1919. If the 'voice' of the narrator and other characters, plus the contextual setting, is not believable then the credibility of the book begins to crumble.

However, the use of modern idiom pales beside the sloppy research. Sergeant Clayton seems to be in command of the whole regiment (Boyne means battalion as regiment is titular and in the first world war, a regiment could comprise as many as twenty battalions.The only officer referred to is General Fielding, whom Bancroft says he will approach regarding the murder of the German soldier. This just couldn't happen. There are at least nine ranks between sergeant and the lowest rank of general and complaints are only forwarded initially to the next rank up. Where was the company commander ( a captain or major) and the lieutenants. Also, when Saddler is sent back for medical treatment. Sergeant Clayton overrules the doctor's decision concluding with the doctor saying to Clayton "Understood, Sir." All army doctors are officers who wouldn't defer to a mere sergeant and would never call a lower rank 'Sir'. Besides which, once the casualty has reached the aid station, he is under the medical officer's command. I assume that, once again, Mr. Boyne has his wires crossed and what he means is not doctor but medical orderly (which he refers to as medics; another anomaly within his terminology) The use of 'Sir'comes up many times when all the privates call Sergeant Clayton and his corporals, 'Sir'. this is quite ludicrous. (Sir' is an officer of 2nd Lieutenant upwards - though the Regimental Sergeant Major is often referred to respectfully as 'Sir' by ranks beneath him)

I had been losing patience with this book long before I got to Bancroft's execution. A 'kangaroo court' is referred to briefly but the whole rigmarole, up to and including the execution, is handled by Clayton again. This is impossible. all executions during the first world war were preceded on the basis of trial by via courts martial and the court was always made up of senior officers.Ultimately the commander in chief (at the time of the book's supposed setting, Field Marshal Haig) had to approve the findings of the courts if the verdict was death by firing squad.

The firing squad itself was completely unbelievable. 'I need one more' (for the firing squad) says Clayton. 'I can't sir' says (Corporal) Wells 'It has to be an enlisted man.' What does Boyne believe that Wells is? A corporal is an enlisted man. Also, a firing squad is chosen by higher authority and Clayton,the omnipotent sergeant, having seemingly selected his own firing squad (deciding six is enough for a squad as opposed to the usual twelve), arbitrarily saying 'I need one more'. This is risible. Sadler volunteers and Bancroft whips away his blindfold at the last to see Tristan Sadler. How Bancroft managed to perform this action, when he would be trussed up tighter than a Christmas turkey and bound to an execution post, staggers belief.

This is all a great shame as this could have been a decent book. Mr.Boyne is a good writer but, success may have gone to his head if he is capable of turning out this shoddily written and poorly researched offering. If Boyne wanted to acquire some accuracy, there is a wealth of information available to him, and more specifically regarding military excecutions in the First World War, he might have glanced at the seminal works on the issue, e.g. 'Shot at Dawn' by Putkowski and Sykes and 'The Thin Yellow Line' by William Moore.
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5.0 out of 5 stars haunting, 28 Nov 2014
By 
Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
What a powerful book and what a powerful ending. Our group said they enjoyed it, found it fascinating, ‘I completely loved the book’ and ‘really connected with it’, ‘logically structured and effortless reading.’
‘Boyne made the characters human with their individual complexities, their emotions and their motives. The book had an enormous emotional impact on me….. what it means to be a man but also what it means to be a human being and fall in love.’

It was a good description of life in the trenches with good descriptions of the main protagonists. The cover compares it to Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong but one member said that this book was more interesting. One wondered whether these men signed up under the Derby Scheme.

As a card-carrying pacifist, I am wary of all the hype this year surrounding the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War but if I could recommend a book about emotions, rather than history, then this is the one I’d recommend.

The narrator, like many (most?) men of his generation, saw the Great War as a ‘great adventure’.

Conscientious objectors were treated cruelly. The bravest ones worked as stretcher bearers (I knew one who survived, a descendant of the Huguenots, an evangelical Christian, a sexist and strange man, I never realised his bravery until I read this.): They might send a team out later tonight to collect him, although they probably won't. What a waste of bloody time, eh? Sending a stretcher-bearer to collect a stretcher-bearer. Then he most likely gets killed and we have to send another out to retrieve him. It's an endless bloody cycle, isn't it?'

Once I got into this book, I found it hard to leave it for other tasks and kept picking up to read a few more, then a few more pages.

You can almost hear the boots sucking in the mud, also a vivid description of nearly missing being killed but of being next to someone who didn’t.

And for the survivors – are they the lucky ones?: my friend lies on the ground, unmoving, his war over. Mine about to begin. One of our group said, ‘the secret that Tristan kept from Will's sister demonstrates how destructive the power of a pain can be.’

One member said, ‘A lot of shame and guilt are evident throughout the story and Boyne is very skilfully to draw a thread through from sexual to moral to social shame. Boyne tells story from start to finish, revealing the exact information you want to know at the right time…. Tristan is gay in an age where it is treated as a court martial offence and is spoken of as so people do not refer to it by name with all its restrictions.’
Some didn’t think that the author was clever enough to carry off the narrative from the first person perspective and one thought the style suggested a children’s author making a first attempt at writing for adults.

Is the publisher, Leavitt, a homage to the author David Leavitt?

The school kiss is ‘completely believable…intimacy followed by rejection.’ Likewise, the lingering eye-contact during the medical inspection.

The hint of betrayal, like Peter and Judas – ‘I barely knew him.’

The sergeant goes mad and sends men over the top to their deaths, just like we were told and like Michael Gove denied, as if he were there – arrogant younger man.

I found it odd that he thought that peeing against the outside wall of a church was sacrilege.

Most memorable, I am still haunted by it, is the war crime towards the end of the book.

We didn’t believe, however, that a training sergeant would follow his trainees to the front and weren’t all letters censored?
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another excellent read, 8 Jun 2011
By 
Clarke (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Absolutist (Hardcover)
I have been a fan of John Boyne's writing for some time and this book definitely did not disappoint! It was well written and was a real page turner right to the end. Touching at times and dramatic at others - this book has conveyed the story of 2 men in the midst of WW1 struggling to survive and cope with the help of each other. Beautifully written!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written novel, 2 Jun 2011
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Absolutist (Hardcover)
I was hooked from the clever and surprising opening sentence of this novel and could not put it down thereafter. This is the beautifully and simply written story of Tristan Sadler, a young man from London who trains and fights as a soldier in World War One, and a story of friendship and of love, of morals and cowardice, and the turmoil and harsh reality of war.

With a lovely structure, the novel is narrated in the first person throughout by Tristan, with sections alternating between his agonizing post war visit to Norwich in 1919 to deliver letters sent by Marian Bancroft to her brother Will, and his army training in Aldershot and subsequent posting to the front lines of France in 1916. Tristan has been disowned by his family having, in their eyes, disgraced them after an incident with a friend at his school, and he lies about his age to enlist for the war early.

I feel that to discuss the plot in much more detail here would be to lessen the enjoyment and experience of discovering it as it unfolds, so suffice it to say that this is an intensely sad, moving and compelling novel.
The concept of an Absolutist in the context of the Great War is explained in the novel as and when the situation arises to which it applies.

I also think the hardcover dust jacket is beautifully designed and really adds to the appeal of the book in this case, with the striking white feather suspended as it floats from the soldier's hand.

I am a fan of this author, in particular for two of his novels, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and look forward to future works by him with relish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you want to know what WW1 was really like read Henry Williamson's semi autobiographical novels, 12 Nov 2014
This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
This is lazy , unresearched writing and thoroughly unbelievable. If you want to know what WW1 was really like read Henry Williamson's semi autobiographical novels, How dear is life, Love and the Loveless etc He was there !
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A superficial and inept novel, 13 Nov 2012
By 
D. J. Dillon (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
I was intending to write a lengthy review of this book, but having read the one star critique submitted by "Foy of the Rovers" I concluded that there was no need. In his review, the plethora of anachronisms, inappropriate usages of military terminology and lack of understanding of protocols and ranks are clearly exposed. This is a huge problem for anyone with even the vaguest notion of the military milieu. In addition, most of the characters are merely ciphers or, as with the case of Sergeant Clayton, caricatures. Dialogue between the soldiers is often risibly unrealistic, and whilst an occasional curse is uttered and mud is referred to, the depiction of warfare itself is superficial. Finally, while a straightforward authorial style can be refreshing, the language deployed throughout this novel is very reminiscent of a GCSE creative writing assignment - this book is not written with a sophisticated adult readership in mind.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning..., 18 Aug 2011
By 
jaffareadstoo (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Absolutist (Hardcover)
From the start of The Absolutist, I was engrossed in Tristan and Will's story, and found myself really hurrying the pages to see what happened next.
The description of the time in the trenches is poignant, desperately sad, and hugely horrific, but never without tender philosophy.I loved both characters, and wanted everything to work out for them - but like all those who fought and died in the Great war, nothing will ever be the same again.

John Boyne is a master storyteller, who manages in a few short sentences to convey a complete world, and a time and place that really exists in your subconscious, with characters that come to life, and who live on in your memory, long after the last page is turned.

I loved every word of this book, and it has to be up there in my top ten reads for 2011.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hugely disappointing, 26 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Absolutist (Paperback)
I cannot help feeling cheated by this book. The marketing on the jacket makes a direct reference to Faulks' Birdsong and draws a parallel with it, but frankly they are not even remotely in the same league.

Novels which are advertised as having a "dark secret" as the motif really need to keep it hidden rather than making it patently obvious from a few pages in. Once one learns that the main character is called Tristran and there is a sexual scandal involving an older man and a boy in the lodging house in which he is about to stay, it is pretty clear where things are going to lead. Add to that the fact that the main character has a twitchy trigger-finger; that he was famous in the trenches for having steady nerves; and his friend was executed for cowardice; and it doesn't take Hercule Poirot to work out what the "dark secret" is. As a result, the pained conversations between the characters in which they allude archly to things which dare not be spoken become merely tedious, tortuous and contrived.

The historical inaccuracies and lack of understanding have been addressed by another reviewer, so it is unnecessary to do so again here. It is, however, more than just sloppy research. The First World War is, of course, full of pathos and one would have to be an emotional cripple not to have some empathy for those involved in it. In his patent lack of understanding, Boyne uses it merely to give his novel an emotional connection which would otherwise not have been there. In essence, the historical context is a replacement for the lack of atmosphere created by the author. There are other stylistic annoyances too: characters who are troubled or distracted are always kicking a hole in the dirt with the toe of their boots for instance. A last conceit is that the main character wishes to become a writer, but wonders whether he will ever be good enough: the implication being that the novelist IS good enough and one can almost see him with a superior smile as he indulges his character. Contrary to what is says on the cover, I'm afraid that this book might make an adequate piece of GCSE coursework, but if you loved Birdsong, there is no guarantee at all that you will love this.
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The Absolutist
The Absolutist by John Boyne (Paperback - 5 July 2012)
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